Friday, November 11, 2005

"The Seal of the Spirit" by Richard Sibbes.

Following hard and fast on my determination to make available material that may be either out of print or slightly older, but yet pure and solid gold in spiritual and theological worth, I found a large section in Volume 3 of the Works of Richard Sibbes - which was his exposition of 2 Corinthians. He deals in depth with his understanding of the 'Sealing of the Spirit' which would fit in very deeply with that of Dr Lloyd-Jones ... and therefore me. He raises questions and proofs that perhaps have been overlooked in the charismatic movement and of necessity must be revived if papers like Jeff Purswell's are to be rebutted. So here it is - transcribed in entirety. It was from the Banner of Truth edition.

Works of Richard Sibbes – Volume 3; “Exposition of 2 Corinthians”.
Banner of Truth, Edinburgh.

“When we honour God by sealing His truth, then the Spirit seals us; certainly then the Spirit doth it by Presence, by being with us in our souls. What then doth the Spirit work when we believe? How shall we know that there is such a spiritual sealing?

I answer the Spirit in this sealing works these four things;

1. First, a secret voice or witness to the soul, that we are ‘the sons of God’.

2. Secondly a voice or speech in us again to God, causing us to have access to the throne of grace ‘with boldness’.

3. Thirdly a work of sanctification.

4. Fourthly ‘a peace of conscience and joy in the Holy Ghost’. Rom xiv. 17.

By these four ways we may know the sealing of the Spirit after we believe and that our faith is a sound belief and that we are in the state of grace indeed.

1. First I say the Spirit speaks to us by a secret kind of whispering and intimation that the soul feels better than I can express. ‘Be of good comfort, thy sins are forgiven thee; saith he to the soul, Matt ix. 2 ‘I am thy salvation’, Ps. Xxxv 3. There is, I say a sweet joining, a sweet kiss given to the soul. ‘I am think and thou art mine’, Cant. Vi 3. God by His Spirit speaks so much. There is a voice of God’s Spirit speaking peace to His people upon their believing.

2. And then, secondly the Spirit of adoption stirs up the speech of the soul to God, that as he says to the soul, because thou believest, now thou art honoured to be my child; so the Spirit stirs up in the soul a spirit of prayer to cry ‘Abba Father’. It can go boldly to God as to a Father, for that ‘Abba Father’, it is a bold and familiar speech.

There are two things in a prayer of a Christian that are incompatible to any carnal man; there is an inward kind of familiar boldness in the soul, whereby a Christian goes to God as a child when he wants any thing goes to his father. A child considers not his own worthiness or meanness but goeth to his father familiarly and boldly; so I say when the Spirit of God speaks to us from God and tells the soul ‘I am thine’, ‘I am thy salvation’, ‘thy sins are forgiven thee, be of good comfort’; and when the soul again speaks to God, when it can pour forth itself with a kind of familiar boldness and earnestness, especially in extremity and in time of trouble, and can wait in prayer, and depend on God – this spiritual speech of God to the soul, and of the soul to God, it is a seal of the Spirit that indeed we are true believers, because we can do that that none can do but Christians. God speaks to our souls, he raiseth our souls, and by His Spirit He puts a spirit of supplication into us and helps our infirmities; for we know not what to ask, but he helps our weakness and enables us to lay out the wants of our souls to God. These are the evidences of the Presence and of the seal of the Spirit.

3. In the third place, this sealing of the Spirit after we believe, is known by the sanctifying work of the Spirit; for as I have told you before in the unfolding of the point, the Spirit seals our spirits by stamping the likeness of the Spirit of Christ on us. So that when a man finds in his soul some lineaments of that heavenly image of Christ Jesus when he finds some love, he may know by that love that he is ‘translated from death to life’, John v 24; when he finds his spirit subdued, to be humble, to be obedient, when he finds his spirit to be heavenly and holy as Christ was’ when he finds this stamp upon the soul, surely he may reason, I have not this by full of malice, now I can love, I can pray heartily for mine enemies as Christ did. Naturally I am lumpish and heavy now in afflictions, I can joy in the Holy Ghost; I have somewhat in me contrary to nature, surely God hath vouchsafed his Spirit upon my believing in Christ, to mark me, to seal me, to stamp me for his, I carry now the image of the second Adam, I know the Holy Ghost hath been in my heart, I see the stamp of Christ there. ‘Know you not that Christ is in you, except you be cast-aways?’ saith the apostle, 2 Co xiii 5. So upon search the Christian soul finds somewhat of Christ always in the soul to give a sweet evidence that he is sealed to the day of redemption.

4. The fourth evidence that the Spirit of God hath been in a man’s heart is the joy of the Holy Ghost and the peace of conscience. Sanctification is the ordinary seal that is always in the soul; this is an extraordinary seal, peace and joy. When the soul needs encouragement, then God is graciously pleased to super add this to give such spiritual ravishings which are as the very beginnings of heaven, so that a man may say of a Christian at such times that he is in heaven before his time, he is in heaven upon earth. But especially God doth this when he will have his children to suffer or after suffering, after some special conflict after we have combated with some special corruption, with some sinful disposition, with some strong temptation, and have got the victory. ‘To him that overcometh will I give of the hidden manna and a white stone and a new name that none can read it, but he that hath it’ Rev ii 17, that is he shall have assurance that he is in the state of grace and the sweet sense of the love of God and that sweet heavenly manna that none else can have. Thus God dealt with Job. After he had exercised that champion a long time, at the last he discovered himself in a glorious manner to him. So it is usually after some great cross, or in the midst of some great cross, when God sees that we must be supported with some spiritual comfort, we sink else. Then there is place and time for spiritual comfort when earth cannot comfort. Thus St Paul in the midst of the dungeon when he was in the stocks being sealed with the Spirit, he ‘sang at midnight’ Acts xvi 24. Alas! What would have become of blessed Paul? His spirit would have sunk if God had not stamped it with ‘joy in the Holy Ghost’. Rom xiv 17 and so David, and the ‘three young men’ in the fiery furnace, and Daniel in the den. God doth then, even as parents, smile upon their children when they are sick and need comfort; so above all other times God reserves this hidden sealing of his children with a spirit of joy when they need it most, sometimes in the midst of afflictions; sometimes before. So our Saviour Christ had James and John on the mountain to strengthen them against the scandal of suffering after. So God when he hath a great work for his children to do, some suffering for them to go through, as an encouragement beforehand, he enlargeth their spirits with the joy of the Holy Ghost. And sometimes also after a holy and gracious disposition in the ordinances of God, God doth add an excellent portion of His Spirit, a seal extraordinary; for indeed god thinks nothing enough for his children till he have brought them to heaven, seal upon seal and comfort upon comfort and the more we depend upon him in the means of salvation, and the more we conflict with our corruptions, the more he increaseth the sweet comforts and the hidden manna of the Spirit.

Thus we see how the Spirit seals; I beseech you, therefore let us examine ourselves by that which hath been spoken; after we believe God seals those that do believe. We honour him by believing, he honours us by sealing us with his Spirit. Hath God spoken to thy soul by the witness of the Spirit and said ‘I am thy salvation’, ‘thy sins are forgiven thee?’, doth God stir up thy spirit to call upon him especially in extremity? And to go with boldness and earnestness to him? Surely this boldness and earnestness is an evidence of the seal of the Spirit; for a man that hath no seal of the Spirit, he cannot go to God in extremity. A man that hath not the Spirit of God speaking peace to his conscience , to whom God hath not given the Spirit of adoption to cry ‘Abba Father’ in all manner of exigents, he sinks as lead to the bottom of the sea. Did you ever feel the sweet joy of the Spirit after conflict with corruptions, and getting ground of them, and in holy duties? It is a sign that God hath sealed you.


jul said...

Good post. I was curious, which paper of Jeff Purswell's were you refering to? I would be interested in reading that too.

Baxter's Boy said...


It's a very interesting paper ... the question is what to make of it. You can find it at:

The context is that SGM have traditionally held a Pentecostal/Charismatic view on the Baptism of the Spirit, and this paper is basically 'modifying' that viewpoint.

The issue is that you can hold to any view on the BHS quite happily to be in SGM.

To understand the paper properly, its worth hearing C J Mahaney launch it at their Leadership Conference a few years ago. It was launched with great applause. Yet he made a few crucial comments.

He understood that some may say that this paper may lead to a diluting of the charismatic dimension in SGM churches. (I was one of them). He didn't have an answer to that - but what he DID say, was that we the concerned were not to blame this paper or the SGM leadership if that did happen.

That fault lay with the individual SGM church and SGM pastor.

I've tried to be as objective as I can, read it and make of it what you will!!